Miss MIrror

Chapter 133: Grief

“MITCH!”

Rachel Chase flew for the pillar of light. She didn’t slow down for the shouts ringing from behind her. She didn’t stop for the hands that tried to grab for her. She didn’t stop for the walls of fire and rock and wind that sprung up in front of her.

She didn’t stop because 13 years ago she had complained that her parents brought home the little brother she had never even considered wanting.

She didn’t stop because 9 year ago, she had spent four hours scouring the park for the action figure her brother had dropped, and because the smile on his face when she brought it home had been worth every second her parents had grounded her.

She didn’t stop because 7 years ago, she had had to tell her little brother that their parents were never coming home again, and she had promised him that things would be okay, that she would never leave him.

She didn’t stop because 3 years ago, she had spent two months convincing her grandparents that she needed to move out of their house and take her little brother with her. Because he needed to be closer to school and she needed to be in the city.

She didn’t stop because 3 months ago, she had seen her brother do the impossible. Because after watching him lay in a hospital bed nearly catatonic for countless hours, he had broken free and faced down a villain on his own that had taken out half a dozen more experienced heroes in a few short days.

She didn’t stop because she couldn’t believe that anything could happen to him, because she had promised that she would never leave him, because she always believed that nothing would ever take him away from her.

She stopped after light had faded. When she reached the center of the pillar, where the ground had been scoured clean, she fell to her knees.

There wasn’t a mark on him, but he didn’t look like he was sleeping. She grabbed him and hugged him to her chest and prayed for him to fight her off like he’d done hundreds for times before. His arms hung limply behind him. She pulled the helmet from his head and begged him to breathe, to wake up.

His skin had already grown stiff and clammy. His eyes had already grown glassy. He looked like he’d been dead for hours.

She didn’t scream. She hadn’t taken a breath since the pillar appeared. Her sobs were quiet, but there wasn’t any sound to drown them out. Her tears dripped onto his face and she wiped them away.

She didn’t realize she had turned her power off completely until she felt the hands grabbing her shoulders. She gripped onto Mitch more tightly but they slowly pried her away. They were saying something, but she couldn’t understand them.

She let herself get pulled away, but her eyes never left her brother’s body. He had crumpled onto his side when she let go and she wanted to rush forward and put him back onto his back. She stared at him until the crowd of heroes closed up behind her.

They stared at her as she was pulled through the lines. She could see them turning to watch her, and she wanted to shout at them. She wanted to yell at them because her brother was dead and they were staring at her instead of going after the monster that killed him.

A figure retreated into a dark alley, and she knew who he was, but he couldn’t be here.

They finally pulled her back to the edges of the battle, where the injured heroes were laid out. They found her a spot on the curb and sat her down.

Someone was on one knee in front of her, and trying to talk to her. She let her eyes wander to the face and managed to recognize Hawthorne’s helmet.

“-be okay?”

She hadn’t heard most of the question, but Rachel knew what she was asking.

“Go.”  She put all the venom she had left in her into that word.

Hawthorne jerked back.

“Go get that monster. I’ll be fine.”

Hawthorne’s face was hidden, but Rachel knew she was hesitating.

“GO!”

She had started crying again. When she shouted, her tears were flicked off of her faces and landed on Hawthorne’s suit, which drank the liquid thirstily.

Hawthorne still moved slowly but she got up and walked back to the battle, watching Rachel over her shoulder.

Rachel didn’t watch her walk away. Her mind was drawn to the last image of her brother, lying on his side and slowly growing smaller as she was dragged away.

And then there was the man in the alley. He couldn’t be here, but she knew she saw him. Her mind’s eye lingered on the shadowy image and her face grew hot. The tears running down her face started to sting in her eyes before they were finally squeezed out. Her hands clenched into fists, and she slowly rose into the air.

She stormed through the sky. He wouldn’t be in the alley anymore, but she knew where he’d be running.

Away.

He could move fast, but not quietly. He wouldn’t have gone far.

Miss Mirror slammed into the ground in front of Will Writer.

Her fist slammed into his face. She didn’t put her power into it, but he wasn’t expecting the blow. Will went sprawling back onto the ground.

“Hello, Rachel.”

Even now, he sounded calm.

“You bastard. What the hell are you doing here?”

“I came-” Will got to his feet as he was talking. “when I saw your brother running to the fight. I’m sorry.”

Her tears had been blown dry during her flight, but she felt them melting her eyeballs from the inside, waiting to burst free.

“Sorry?” Her breath hissed through her teeth. “You’re sorry? You were supposed to protect him.”

Her fist slammed into his chest. There was no force behind it.

“You were supposed to watch him.”

Her fist slammed into him again.

“To make sure he was ready.”

Again.

“And you abandoned him. You abandoned all of them.”

Her fist slammed into him again and her tears finally burst free.

He stood there, still as a statue, taking it all.

“You ran away.”

Her fist dropped to her side and Will stepped back.

“I did.”

She looked up. There were circles under his eyes, and wrinkles on his face that she had never seen before.  He wasn’t crying. He didn’t even look sad. He looked up at the black figure hanging against the black sky.

“That man, comes back no matter how many times he’s beaten. No matter how many times he’s killed. He exists somewhere outside of this world that we can’t reach. There isn’t a hero on any world that can touch him.”

“I don’t care.” Miss Mirror was surprised to hear herself speaking.

Will turned back to face her.

“I don’t care where he his or when he is or if he is literally everywhere. That thing killed my brother.”

She looked at Will, and he was staring back at her, but his mind was somewhere completely different. She was going to punch him again, she could feel her skin starting to boil.

He turned and walked towards the battle.

“Where are you going?!” She shouted after him.

“To end it.”

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Chapter 124: Shatters

A figure in silver darted between him and the guns just before they fired. His sister walked slowly towards them; the bullets hit her and ricocheted into the ground two feet in front of her. The Elephant’s henchmen ran out of bullets before she’d walked halfway to them.

One by one, they dropped the guns, and feeling slowly returned to Red Racer’s legs. The henchmen dropped to their knees and put their hands behind their heads before she said a word. She placed a hand on each of their heads in turn, and they fell down unconscious one after the other. In less than 4 minutes, all 10 of the henchmen were laying on the floor.

Red jogged over to his sister’s side. She glanced down at him, a frown creasing her face.

“If they surrendered this easily, it’s because The Elephant is long gone already. I need to stay here and wait for the cops to come and pick them up. You should go home.”

“But-”

“Doing as I say is part of the deal. You need to go home and rest.” She glanced sideways at Red and sighed before letting a light smile to form on her face. “I’m sorry, but you froze again. You know you can’t stay out here after that.”

Red Racer wanted to argue, but the last time he tried, his sister had hidden his suit for a week.

“I’ll see you at home.” He hadn’t meant it to sound as abrupt as it did.

“I’ll pick up something to eat on my way, okay?”

“Yeah, okay.”

Sirens echoed down the street as Red sped off. His fingers dug into the palms of his hands. Normally, it would only take him a few seconds to get home, but he ran up to the roof of the first tall building he could find and stopped.

The roof was mostly loose gravel with a single concrete footpath leading from the stairwell to various air ducts. There was no one up there, and there wasn’t going to be anytime soon.

Red Racer took a deep breath and closed his eyes. The air was crisper up here; cleaner than down in the streets where the filtering zeppelins couldn’t get to it so easily. The Air conditioners hummed all around the rooftop, but there was no other noise. Even the cars on the streets below couldn’t break the silence.

He didn’t want to be angry at Sara for sending him home. But he couldn’t help the tightening in his chest when she gave him an order. Her being right only made it worse.

Red took another breath. He felt the air rattling down to his lungs and shivered. The guns were back, floating beneath his eyelids. He shut his eyes tighter, so tightly that he began to see spots, but he couldn’t make them go away.

He opened his eyes and forced himself to look past the phantoms. He should get home.

“Doing as I say is part of the deal. You need to go home and rest.” Miss Mirror glanced sideways at Red and sighed before letting a light smile to form on her face. “I’m sorry, but you froze again. You know you can’t stay out here after that.”

Red Racer stared blankly at his sister. His face grew cold as the blood slowly drained from it. The henchmen were all lying unconscious on the ground, in the exact same positions he remembered.

“Red?” She turned fully towards him. “Are you okay?”

He barely managed to nod. This couldn’t be real.

“Are you sure? You look like you’re seeing a ghost. Look, wait over by the alley and I’ll go home with you. I’m not sure if you should be running right now.”

Red managed to stumble over to the sidewalk and lean against the building. Sirens echoed down the street.

Something was wrong, this wasn’t supposed to happen. Had he done something? Had he run in some kind of time loop? No…he’d been standing still when it had happened. Or had he? He tried to focus on the memory, but the details had faded away, he knew that time had fun back on itself, but he couldn’t remember where he was when it happened.

He needed to tell his sister. She would know what had happened. Or she would be able to talk to someone.

“Red!”

The shout shook him out of his stupor. HE turned to face his sister. She was hunched over and examining his face.

“I think you might be coming down with something.” She grasped his arm and squeezed it gently. “Come on, you’re not running like that, so I’m gonna have to carry you home. You need to get to bed.”

He didn’t have time to talk before she scooped him up and launched them both into the sky.

“Sis-“ The wind drowned out his voice.

Red glanced below them. He stared at the tallest building on the way home, but could only barely understand why.

Miss Mirror held him close and flew high into the air above the clouds. He felt one of her arms flick below him and her outfit changed colors, easily blending in with the sky.

The dropped quickly, faster then gravity should have pulled them, but they landed on the roof with the grace of ten cats.

Red followed his sister down to their apartment.

“Change into something warm, I’ll grab the thermometer.”

“Rachel, wait.”

She didn’t stop rummaging through the drawers. “Yeah?”

“I’m not sick. I…I saw something weird-eird.”

She stopped rummaging and turned towards him. Her mask had been peeled away and he looked straight into her eyes.  He hadn’t echoed like that in weeks.

“I’m not sure how to explain it, but, things started happening twice.”

“You mean like déjà vu?”

“No. I was already on my way home, and then I was back with you and you said the same thing you just had.”

Rachel stared into his eyes without blinking until he looked away. His gaze landed on her hand, gripping the counter so tightly that it had turned paper-white.

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Chapter 118: Thrill of the Hunt

He couldn’t help the toothy grin that stretched his face. There was something special about using one hero as a weapon against another that few things could match. He’d missed the looks of shock, followed by the quick calculating moments where they tried to avoid hurting each other.

The boy stopped dead when he flew into Miss Mirror. There wasn’t even the sound of an impact. He fell from her grasp, dropping the short distance to the ground and climbing to his feet without a hint of discomfort.

Jaeger’s grin vanished. That wasn’t as fun as he’d hoped.

The world blurred by in nearly perfect clarity. The ground and air warped around him as he ran just past the one he’d thrown before coming to a sudden dead stop. The boy tried to keep his ground, but the full force of Jaeger’s wake slammed into him. He tumbled away, not far, but far enough to let Jaeger’s prey come down to the ground.

She didn’t say a word. Her eyes glowed a blue so pale and bright they almost looked silver. They met his and didn’t waver. She wouldn’t be talking yet.

She may as well have been punching through mud. He slid around her fist, but his wake slid off of her like water splitting on a boulder.

Her father had been similar. Gravity had obeyed him more finely than Jaeger could use his weapon; but it had taken him hours to set the trap that robbed Jaeger of his speed. This girl didn’t have his powers, and she didn’t have his skill.

Jaeger ran, circling the girl with ever tightening loops.

The girl’s face twisted, first into confusion, and then into glorious shock. Her eyes narrowed. She tried to take a step towards the circle’s edge, but she couldn’t get any purchase on the ground. She tried to through her weight forward, but ended up cartwheeling in the air. Her skin was starting to flush and she started gasping and clutching at her head.

Jaeger leapt over the branch that grew in his path and came to a dead stop just short of the wall fob lure fire that sprouted in his path. It had happened almost too late for him to react.

The girl collapsed to the ground. Her skin was already returning to normal, but she wouldn’t be getting up until he was ready for her.

More prey had arrived. Three extras; the first boy and a new boy and girl. He had always enjoyed bonus prey, but today he had a goal beyond the hunt, and none of them looked to make good trophies. He couldn’t afford to have fun with these interferences.

The three of them were shouting at each other, but the words were meaningless. None of them were talking about his goal.

The first boy, the strong one, was glowing brightly enough that Jaeger had trouble looking at him.

He leapt for Jaeger. He might as well have walked for all the good it did. Jaeger slammed his elbow into the boy’s sternum, but there was no give in the strike. The boy’s armor blocked his hit and the boy’s weight slammed into Jaeger.

Jaeger’s speed clashed with the glow, and they both stopped dead. Even Jaeger’s wake couldn’t reach the boy.

Blue flames sprouted around the two of them. They started small, but they were soon taller than either of them.

“Now!”

The shout came from outside the dome. The ground rose up around them, cracking as plants grew from the concrete.

The boy leapt backwards; the plants gave him a boost and the flames weakened just enough to let him through.

The plants gripped Jaeger’s legs tightly and the dome of fire closed overhead.

This prey was turning out to be interesting more interesting than he expected. But just because it knew more tricks than he expected, didn’t mean that they were tricks he hadn’t seen already.

Jaeger flexed his power. The cracked street rose around him in a ring and slammed into the ground. The plants around his legs were cut off from their roots and stopped growing. He flexed his power again, and, with a kick, launched himself at the wall of fire.

Jaeger laughed as the fire burst apart at his touch.

The wall vanished behind him. The faint whupping of a helicopter meant that the news had found him again.

“Did you think to trap a hunter? You are just more prey waiting for my fangs. The decision on when they reach you is entirely yours. So which will it be-”

His prey was stunned. He could see the look in their eyes. The inner struggle that all prey went through before the hunt grew fun.

“Fight?”

He blurred forward, stopping just short of the girl in the center.

“Or Flight?”

His wake slammed into her. She skidded back a few feet, before her clothes reached down and buried themselves into the ground to stop her.

She was the plant manipulator, the more dangerous prey.

Her helmet would be made of plants too; she had armored herself well, but he had broken through worse.

Jaeger’s fist struck her in the stomach. There was a loud crack and splinters burst from the new hole in her vest. Her breath was forced form her lungs. He frowned at his lack of control. He hadn’t hit her hard enough to kill. A second layer of armor had kept him from piercing her flesh.

A glowing fist tried to catch him off guard. Jaeger’s head crooked to the side and the fist passed over his shoulder.

The arm came around to try and grab him, but Jaeger ducked beneath it and darted to the side, leaving the girl to collapse onto the ground.

Before she had hit, he was behind the glowing boy and his fist slammed into his head. The glow had been returning from his hand, but there wasn’t enough of it built up to stop his blow completely anymore.

The boy’s head snapped forward, taking the rest of his body with it and slamming into the girl’s helmet. The helmet was crushed from the blow. And there was blood trickling down the back of the boy’s neck.

Fire tore through the air where Jaeger had just been. This one thought he was safe because he wasn’t on the ground.

Jaeger smiled. He grabbed the strong one’s legs and spun him around. It only took one spin before Jaeger let him go and sent him shooting towards the fire boy faster than he’d thrown him at his first Prey.

He moved to catch his friend, but he couldn’t move fast enough. The two of them collided and the fire boy lost his height. His armor flickered for less than a second, but that was all Jaeger needed.

Jaeger’s fingers clawed into the fire boy’s ankles, and he kept running. The boy tried to fight back, but his flames were dragged away before they could reach Jaeger.

Jaeger slammed straight into a building. His powers kicked in, forcing the wall to part before him. He didn’t grant his passenger the same privilege.

There was a disappointing lack of blood on the boy’s face. He must have kept his helmet on long enough to take the blow for him.

Jaeger dragged him to the others. None of them had died outright.

Originally, he hadn’t planned on killing anyone until he had found his son, but these three had interfered with his hunt. He could not let that go unpunished.

A long sturdy knife appeared from his belt. He could collect some trophies before forcing the tricksters’ daughter into leading him to his son.

He froze.

Gravity had just shifted away from him, but not in the way that the trickster had done.

He searched desperately for the source.

Something small and fast was coming straight for him.

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Chapter 116: Hunting Blind

They wouldn’t listen to her. She wouldn’t have listened either. But she had to try. No matter what they had managed to face down before, none of them were in Jaeger’s league.

She flew lower than normal. Even if she wasn’t next on Jaeger’s list, it would be hard for him to turn down such an easy target. She was ready for him. There were reflection points all over her body, as many as she could make. Even a mind reader would have a hard time finding a gap in her defenses right now.

She would have to live with the small ache beginning to buzz near the back of her head. If she didn’t fly, she couldn’t lead Jaeger to a safe place for their fight, and there was no way she would turn her defenses off.

She passed over the highway; traffic was only just starting to let up from the morning rush, but it was still packed with cars.

The area in front of her was desolate. The buildings that were still standing were as empty as the streets below them. She’d be able to go all out with worrying about sho might be in the way of anything she sent flying.

She floated to the center of the abandoned blocks and began to wait.

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He hadn’t quite drawn the short straw; Unimportant and Burnout were working on tracking down Jaeger’s hideout, and Hawthorne had gone to get Mach and hang around Red’s room. He was the only one left who could do this job.

Allspades stuck to the streets when he followed Miss Mirror. It wasn’t hard; she was flying low, letting the lights of the city reach her. She knew there was a fight coming and was letting Jaeger know that she was ready.

It was a desperate move; she was letting her opponent choose when and where to attack. It was the kind of opportunity his old team would have used to take a target out before they ever had the chance to react.

It wasn’t until she crossed the highway that he understood where she was going. The ruins left from there fight with Trump had been cleared out, but nobody had started reconstruction yet. It was a large open area that nobody wanted to walk through if they could help it.

In the middle of a place like that, she might actually get the chance to see Jaeger coming, but she hadn’t seen him in person.

She knew where Red was. If Jaeger was really looking for him, then that was the only reason she’d make it through the first attack. All he had to do was wait for her powers to run her down and he could break through.

Allspades stayed near the edge of the area, keeping an eye on Miss Mirror’s floating form. This was the last building he could use to hide himself. His hand drifted to his phone hidden in his costume and clicked a few buttons. His earpiece buzzed to life.

“Allspades?” Hawthorne’s voice drifted into his ear. He could hear someone else talking in the background, Mach he guessed, but nobody seemed to be talking back. “What’s up?

“She’s floating in the middle of what’s left of Trump’s rampage. I don’t think she’s planning on going anywhere. Any updates from the others.”

“Burnout described a very detailed map of the city that Unimportant has been sticking pins in. I don’t think they’ve found anything solid yet. And I’m stuck in civvies until something happens.”

Paige tugged at their bond, jerking his attention to the roof.

“I need to go. I’ll let you know if something happens.”

“Just keep an eye on her, okay? If Jaeger comes for her, then you’re the only one who can help.”

She said that like he’d have a chance to do anything. By the time he reached Miss Mirror from where he was standing, Jaeger could have killed her a dozen times in increasingly intricate ways.

Allspades had to kick off the building about halfway up to make it to the roof. Paige seemed to drift away from him once he landed, he felt the bond stretch toward the sky.

His vision went black.  He failed to suppress a yelp, and only the reassuring waves from Paige kept him from doing worse.

Allspades took a deep breath, and, one by one, specks of light started to fill his vision. He was looking through Paige’s…eyes wasn’t the right word.

It was like he was slowly spinning to take the entire city in, but he could see it all at once. Paige would focus on whatever he asked her to, but he never lost sight ov everything else. Miss Mirror was just as far as she’d been from the street, but he could see her clearly enough to make out the scowl on her face.

Paige drew his attention elsewhere. Across the city, the air was rippling. Nobody walking near it was reacting. Unconsciously, despite the distance between him and the shimmer, he reached out to rub his hand against it. He couldn’t have touched it, but the moment his arm saw fully extended, he cried out.

His vision snapped back, throwing him to the ground. The muscles behind his eyes squeezed uncomfortable, causing the sky to swim above him. Even the slightest movement caused his head to scream and the ground and sky to rapidly swap places.

Allspades brought a hand up to rub the headache away. It took him three tries to successfully land his hand on his head before he could gently massage his temple.

The bond hummed gently without noise. He tried to reassure Paige, but he couldn’t be sure if his message was coming through clearly.

His tounge was dry, but his mouth was filling with spit. Allspades was immediately glad for his mask-free costume when the contents of his stomach spewed from his mouth and onto the rooftop.

“Let’s…not do that again if we can help it.”

The bond seemed to flip up and down rapidly.

His eyes returned to Miss Mirror. She was hovering in the sky still, but had slowly started to turn around and was sinking even lower.

“If he’s attacking he’ll do it soon.”

The bond screamed, but it was too late.

Allspades was soaring through the air. His cartwheels barely let him see the ground, but he could see the black and silver figure keeping pace with him, before he slammed into Miss Mirror’s floating form.

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Chapter 115: First Hunt

No matter how fast she ran, she never got any closer. The man in black and silver was always a few dozen steps ahead of her.

Zero reached into her well of power and drew forth even more speed. Her legs moved faster and pushed harder off the ground. She gained a step on him, but as soon as she did, he gained it back.

It had been thirteen years since Jaeger had been locked away. She’d still been in the hospital after Hermes had died, but even if she hadn’t, she would have stayed away from that fight. Thirteen years ago she wasn’t even a tenth as fast as she was now, and Jaeger had been faster than any runner in the world.

For thirteen years, he had been kept nearly immobile in a cell, and she’d been getting faster. A week ago, she knew she was faster than anyone on this side of the world, and a strong contender on the other. But Jaeger was outpacing her at every step, and she knew that he hadn’t pulled everything out just yet.

Jaeger turned a corner. When she followed, he was gone.

The air was forced out of her lungs before she could feel the blow to her back. It lifted her off the ground and sent her plummeting forward.

At some point, she flipped. It was half a block before her shoulder hit the ground, sending her skipping like a stone on a lake.

She tried to catch herself on the second skip, but when her foot hit the ground it forced her knee into her chest. Her kneecap met her ribs and neither survived. If there was any air left in her lungs, it was gone.

Bye the third skip, she couldn’t protect her head any longer. She was barely conscious of closing her eye while left side of her face scraped along the ground before her tumble lifted it into the air again.

She was still at nearly full speed when, mercifully, her back slammed into the side of a reinforced truck. The thick metal was designed to outlast a tank. She dented it nearly to the breaking point before the entire truck tipped onto its side.

She bounced out of the dented metal, but she came to rest only a dozen yards away. She had just enough time to wonder about the pain before it hit her all at once and her mind faded.

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Burnout’s phone clattered to the ground as it finally slid from his listless hand. The camera was zooming out from the accident, revealing the trail of destruction in the wake of Zero’s crash. The billboard quickly replaced the image with the anchor’s sitting at their desk but the damage was done.

He wasn’t the only one who was entrapped by the image. Allspades’ eyes had grown narrow and he was muttering something under his breath. Hawthorne’s costume was writhing and a few tendrils were swaying around her. Unimportant had faded into the background. Even Miss Mirror had stopped floating and her cape had stopped fluttering in the nonexistent wind.

Zero had been defeated, humiliated, by a runner she couldn’t even hope to keep up with.

He could feel the fire at his core shrinking away. How was he supposed to fight somebody like that?

“That’s Red’s father?” The words felt thick on his tongue. He made a vain attempt to swallow but his mouth was arid.

“He’s been in jail for as long as Red’s been alive.” Miss Mirror sounded less firm than she had in the minutes before the broadcast. “I never imagined that he’d still be so fast. If he hadn’t gone to the hospital to visit his newborn son, then he never would have been caught.”

It was the kind of trap that could only work once. The perfect set of powers and information to keep Jaeger still just long enough knock him out and put him in a cell designed to keep runner’s from moving. One hero to grab hold of the local gravity before he could and one to hit him in the exact spot needed hard enough to get him down; her parents.

“I don’t think we can be much help.” Everyone turned to Allspades, but his eyes never left the billboard. “I saw him before coming here. He’s not just fast, he carved a symbol into the Headquarters in a single pass and I didn’t even see him doing it. We don’t have the powerset to catch him; he’d see any trap we could set.”

Burnout agreed, in spite of himself. He’d read a dozen ways to catch runners with fire, and his armor added a few more, but there was nothing he could do to catch someone that fast. Maybe he could set up some kind of updraft corridor that would force him off the ground? He’d never tried to keep a steady fire going that far from himself, but his fingers tingled with heat.

The expression on Miss Mirror’s face widened slightly before Allspades spoke again.

“We should focus on keeping him away from Red. How many people know about them?”

“Not many,” Miss Mirror said. “Our granpdarents, Will, Zero; maybe Janus if she put it together. Zero may have told the Council, but she said she wouldn’t yet. But-”

“That was before Jaeger turned her into a road hazard,” Hawthorne said. “If she wakes up before they catch Jaeger, she’s going to tell them. Until then, Red will be safe. Maybe we could track down wherever he’s staying and pass it on?”

Unimportant faded more into existence. “if i had an idea of where he’s been seen, i might be able to figure something out. even runners have patterns

An idea hit Burnout. “Half the people at the university keep track of that stuff; I might be able to hit up a few of them to figure that out.”

Hawthorne and Allspades started talking at the same time.

Stop,” Miss Mirror’s voice reverberated over the rooftop. They all turned towards her. “I think you misunderstood me. I don’t want any of you to fight Jaeger. For god’s sake, most of you have only been doing this a couple of years at most.”

They all stared at her mutely. Even after what they’d seen, Burnout didn’t think any of them had actually considered not taking on Jaeger in some way.

She kept talking before they could recover. “It’s not a secret who my parents are. Jaeger will come for me, probably soon. I should be able to keep him busy for long enough that the rest of the Council can get there, but if I mess up, somebody needs to watch over…Red.

“I need to go before he starts looking for me. All of you need to stay away from him, and you need to keep Red away too.”

She didn’t wait for an answer before taking off into the sky.

Once she disappeared, they turned back to each other.

how soon can you get me that info?

Burnout shrugged. “I can make some calls. Can’t be too obvious about it.”

“Do it fast,” Hawthorne said. “We’re not waiting for Jaeger to kill her before we do something.”

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Chapter 113: Hunter’s Call

“Graagh!”

His fist broke through the computer monitor and out the other side.

They were already dead.

His return home was almost complete. Ten dozen convenience stores and grocers were emptied in his wake. By the last dozen, he’d been in and out before the cops had chosen a car to send over.

His last stop was here, an empty library. He needed to learn how his prey had grown. Even the greatest hunter must learn to respect his prey. After all, he had been defeated once before. Defeated by trickery and deceit, true, but defeated all the same. And then, as an extra insult, his enemies had stolen from him.  They took his drive, his reason for hunting, and claimed it as their own.

And they were already dead. His prey had been stolen. Another had dared to claim his prize while he was caged. Someone had broken the hunter’s code, as if he wouldn’t find out, as if his defeat was more than a chance for his hunting grounds to repopulate.

But even he could not stalk this thief. A hunter does not fear his limits, but he must know them. A monster devoured his prey whole. A monster who stood above prey and predator alike and who destroyed them all equally.

He would not challenge that monster. He would not endanger his hunting grounds by exposing them to such a beast. But even if he could not have his revenge, he could reclaim his treasure.

And he would teach his son exactly what it meant to be an apex predator.

&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&

His sister was sleeping. She thought he was too.

He hadn’t slept since the attack, but he wasn’t sure how long ago that was anymore. The days had blended together, and there were a few that he couldn’t remember at all. The doctor’s visits had grown farther apart, but the nurses came by as much as they ever had.

He wondered if his sister believed the doctors. They’d told her it was all in his head.

Hawthorne had visited at one point. It was the first time he’d seen her without her mask, but he would have recognized the voice even if she hadn’t talked about their adventures.

He wanted to talk back to her, but he couldn’t. He’d wanted to tell her that it wasn’t her fault. She’d never done anything but made him feel like he belonged. She’d even let him be important.

He was the only one to blame. He could get out of bed. He could tell his sister to stop worrying and tell Hawthorne it wasn’t her fault. He could go home, go to school, and spend time with his friends. He could even put his costume back on and fight.

Just like he could have saved her.

She died because of what he did.

The doctors were right. It was all in his head. He knew that, but he wouldn’t get out of bed. He was frozen.

His sister’s phone rang, and he shut his eyes. She groaned and fumbled for her phone. He opened his eyes a hairs breadth and saw her face lit by the screen.

She got out of the chair as she answered the phone, and made it out to the hallway before talking.

“It’s three in the morning.”

There was a long pause. He opened his eyes enough to see her standing in the doorway. She was completely frozen, even more than when he’d seen her on the floor after the sleeping spell hit. Her phone slowly slid out of her fingers and crashed onto the floor.

“No.” She dropped to her knees with a thud and scrambled the phone back to her ear, holding it with both hands. “I-I didn’t catch that.”

She froze again. Her off hand fell down from the phone and scraped along the floor.

“Three days. He could be here any second. Why didn’t-?” He had to close his eyes to slits again when she turned back to look at him. He had never seen his sister so afraid. There were tears slowly rolling down form her wide unblinking eyes, and her lip trembled.

“He’s in the hospital. I don’t know if…Okay just tell me what I can do.”

She was silent for a few minutes before she hung up without another word.

She stayed on her knees for a few minutes before she grabbed the door frame and pulled herself to her feet. The screen on her phone had already gone dark, but she stared at it blankly.

Her fingers began to fumble at the keypad.

“Rose-yes I know. Please tell me you found a lead.” She started moving, pacing. “We really need him right now. I…can you stop by in the morning, first thing? No, wait.” Her voice grew firmer, but she started to talk more quietly. “Meet me outside, we’ll find somewhere to talk. You-we need to be ready. Just let me know when you’re here, I need to make more calls.”

She hung up. Despite what she said, she didn’t call anyone immediately. She stumbled over to the bed and he had to shut his eyes completely.

He knew she was staring at him. He felt the bed shift when she grabbed the railing. Neither of them moved.

Something wet hit his hand. He risked cracking one eye open.

She was crying. It was a different kind of crying than when she’d been on the phone. Her lips were moving but there was no sound. There didn’t have to be.

‘Why?’

One word repeated over and over again.

More tears hit his hand. They began to slide down off of it until they would be absorbed by the sheet beneath him. The wet spot had started to grow beneath his hand before she began to slow down. She reached up and wiped her eyes on her sleeve. Beneath the tears, they were bloodshot, and the skin around them was and angry puffy pink.

Her lips stopped trembling and firmed into a thin line.  The next word she said bit into the air like an icy wind. He knew immediately that he would never forget the name.

“Jaeger.”

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Chapter 109: Disappearance

Will stared at the ceiling.

It had been eight days. More than a few people had knocked on his door, but it wasn’t hard to convince them he wasn’t there. The only one with a spare key was Lux, and he should be out of the city for a few more days at least.

He hadn’t stayed shut in the whole time. He’d helped look for survivors in the wreckage, and he’d found more than his fair share of them. But after a few days, all the searches were done. After that he’d come home and spent the next day sleeping.

And then he’d just stayed in bed. He’d gotten up when he needed to, but he’d never had to leave the apartment. He pretended that he needed the time to think, but he’d spent most of the time avoiding anything he should be thinking about.

What he really wanted was a distraction, and it had come in last night.

Will was hiding and he knew it. But he was also waiting. His father was calling in the favor he owed, and that meant that some time in the next few hours, he’d be answering the knock at his door.  And then he’d be put on a plane that would fly in circles for a few hours to try and keep him from figuring out where he was going.

The last time he’d owed his father a favor, he’d had to take down an underground base that his father refused to confirm belonged to aliens, despite the fact that he’d met aliens multiple time before. The time before that he’d ended up at a party spying on some annoyingly rich people his father thought might be funding criminal organizations. Before that his father had taken him fishing.

That one had actually been the worst. Even halfway across the country, he could occasionally feel his father’s powers influencing him; tiny ideas and emotions would pop into his brain for no reason. When they got too close, his father’s powers became a constant buzzing in the back of his head. He could ignore it, just like most people did without even thinking about it, but it was a constant nuisance and he hadn’t been able to sleep for the entire three day trip.

Technically, he had only offered one day. But his father would use that day for all it was worth. And the day didn’t technically start until the mission did.  A one day debt could keep him gone for a week if it was spread out enough.

There was a knock at the door.

Will took his time getting out of bed. He grabbed his crumbled coat off the ground and shook it out. There was another knock, more insistent this time. Will grabbed a drink from his refrigerator and took a long sip before he opened the door.

A black suit stood on the other side. He held his tongue professionally, but there was extra effort going into his stoic face that made Will feel a little better.

“Time to go,” Will said.

The suit turned around and led Will down the hall and to a plain black sedan.

It was time to see how long his father would make the day last.

&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&

Rachel Chase waited outside of her brother’s hospital room. She’d spent as long as she could inside, but she couldn’t stand it any longer. He spent most of his time staring blankly at the TV, whether it was could barely even get him to eat, and he’d left half his meals unfinished.

She needed to move. She turned down the hall and went to Tina’s room. Visiting her had been one of the few things that let Rachel stay at her brother’s side without breaking down. But that wouldn’t last much longer. She’d be checking out in two days, and Rachel would lose the only distraction she had left.

Rachel paused outside the room. Voices floated through the cracked door.

“I know you haven’t been able to leave the hospital, but we’re asking everyone who’s had contact with him recently. No one has seen him in a week, and when they finally got into his apartment, it looked like he was preparing for a trip.”

She recognized the voice, but she couldn’t remember his name.

“No, he didn’t stop by. I haven’t seen him since before the attack.”

“I thought as much, but people are starting to worry. He hasn’t disappeared in quite some time, but when he does, something usually ends up happening.”

“I’ll let you know if I hear anything. Thanks for stopping by, Aidos.”

Rachel heard him walking towards the door, but didn’t move. He didn’t look at her when he passed by, he just turned the other direction and walked away.

Rachel waited a few seconds before she walked into the room.

Tina turned toward her with a smile, but it quickly fell away. “You haven’t gone home yet, have you?”

Rachel froze and, eventually, shook her head.

Tina sighed. “It’s been a week. Driving yourself crazy isn’t going to do him any good.”

“What am I supposed to do? I can’t leave him here.”

“Mitch isn’t going anywhere. When he comes out of this, do you think he’ll want to see you looking like that?”

Rachel shook her head.

“Good,” Tina laid back in bed. “If you go now you’ll avoid traffic. We can talk then.”

Rachel turned to walk out. But she paused.

“What was that guy in here before me talking about?”

Tina turned back. “He was my contact for the meetings. The Council has been sending people out asking if anyone’s seen Will. They’ll probably ask you too.”

“Will’s missing? Who could-“ Rachel paused. Tina didn’t know who Will used to be. She hadn’t heard the same stories, or at least didn’t know he had anything to do with them. It didn’t sound like anyone had taken him against his will, but if someone had managed to do it, and been able to do it without raising chaos, then that meant someone was planning something huge.

“I’m sure it’ll be fine,” Rachel said. “Will can take care of himself. They didn’t trust him with you guys for no reason.”

She wished she could be so sure.

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Chapter 108: Broken Steel

She knew where she was before she opened her eyes. There were people around her speaking quietly, and others whose voices were muffled by a closed door. The bed beneath her was hard and she could feel the head being sucked from her arms into the metal bars on either side. But the smell was all she needed.

There aren’t many places that smell as artificial as a hospital room. The sheets that smell clean only because they don’t smell like anything, the spiceless food sitting by her bed, the cleaning chemicals in the air that barely cover the almost sour taste that gathers around aging medicine. It was almost enough to distract her from the headache.

Tina opened her eyes.

The chair to her left was empty, but the blanket crumpled on top of it belonged to her mother. She wouldn’t have even brought the blanket if she hadn’t had to stay the night.

The voices on the other side of her hushed. Tina took a deep breath and turned over. George was there; that wasn’t too surprising, he and her father had gotten along the few times they’d met. He was one of the few people her parents would call.

Rachel was there too, and Tina’s stomach tightened a little. She’d been avoiding Rachel’s calls since she quit her job. There were rings around her eyes, and they had sunk deep into her skull, but she offered a half smile and Tina relaxed.

She almost didn’t recognize Jack; she hadn’t seen him since she had to stop working at the coffee shop and his arm was in a sling. He shouldn’t even know he was in the hospital, and how did he know George?

Her power woke up and her vision went white. Images flashed before her eyes, too fast for her to focus on. She caught a glimpse of Jack as she’d seen him in the coffee shop, and her times with the support group, but the image her powered settled on was the sight of Allspades in a warehouse with water raining down around him.

“Allspades,” she said quietly. “Jack.”

Her headache spiked, but it faded fast.

When she recovered, George was at her side, and Jack had gone to the door and looked to be waving somebody over. She tried to sit up.

“Slow down.” George gently grasped her shoulder. His face was twisted with worry. “You passed out during the attack. The doctor said to let her look at you before you move too much.”

Tina took a slow breath and lied back down. “How long was I out?”

“Three days,” a new voice said. Tina turned to look at the doctor walking into the room. Her eyes were glued to a chart in her hand. “In that time you’ve been put through more scans than most people get in a lifetime. By the time you got to us, your brain activity was completely normal. Since then we’ve just been waiting for you to wake up.”

She paused and glanced up at Tina, but Tina stayed quiet. The last time she was in the hospital, she was put through the bad news routine a few times a day. She knew when there was a “but” coming. The doctor looked at the others in the room and shooed them to the door.

“You’re going to be here for a while. At least a week. With your recent brain damage, we can’t take any risks. I was told that your power may have acted up during the attack. Do you remember anything?”

She did. She remembered every second as hundreds of deaths imprinted themselves onto the collapsing building.

Tina nodded.

The doctor waited for more, but when Tina didn’t speak, she nodded. “We can get someone for you to talk to about it if you want. It would help get you released, but there’s no hurry. Just let me know.”

She turned and walked out of the room. Tina relaxed back into the bed and counted down from ten.

When she reached zero, George was back in the room.

She kept her eyes on the ceiling. “What happened?”

“Most of the city was knocked out by a spell. They’ve had it carved onto billboards for months. We would have been asleep too-”

“But you tripped it early.”

He nodded. “The Court held out as long as he could. He managed to use me to wake the rest of the group up. We tracked down the leader and beat him. Will found the mage casting the spell and woke everyone up.”

Tina looked at George again. He wasn’t injured as badly as Jack had been, but she could see the bandages peeking out from under his sleeves, and there was a sickly purple welt covering half of his neck.

“Is everyone okay?”

George shifted uncomfortably. “Hawthorne has some broken ribs and she’ll be using crutches for a few weeks. Unimportant is mostly fine, but he has some road burns from jumping out of a car. You saw Allspades. I got away with some bruises.”

Tina tried to catch George’s eyes, but he was staring at the floor.

“What happened to Red?”

George shook his head. “He…he wasn’t hurt.”

If she waited for the “but” it would never happen. “What happened, George?”

“Someone died in front of him. It was before any of us had met up. Will and Hawthorne left him somewhere they thought he’d be safe, but he wasn’t there after the fight. Will said he showed up at his sister’s house a few hours later. We haven’t been able to see him, because-“ George made a vague gesture to his face. “But Will’s been talking to his sister. He said that Red’s barely talked since the attack ended. The doctor’s gave him some sedatives today because he hasn’t been sleeping.”

There were tears running down Tina’s cheeks. Rachel had been there, waiting in her room instead of her brother’s. George still refused to look up from the floor, so she quickly wiped them away.”

“George, can you send Rachel in. I need her to get some things from my house.”

He started to say something but started coughing. “Sure,” he said eventually.

Rachel closed the door behind her, and sat next to Tina.

“I’m sorry, Rachel.”

It was the smallest thing she could say, but there was no time to say more.

Rachel didn’t ask how she figured out that Mitchell was Red Racer. She probably didn’t even care.

“I don’t know how to help him,” she said softly. Tina reached out and took her hand.

Rachel started to sob. Tina hugged her friend as closely as she could from inside the hospital bed. Warm tears soaked into her hospital gown.

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Chapter 74: Plan

Light and shadows danced independently through the room. More magic had been cast within the space than the physics within the room could hold against.

The Court floated in the center of the room. The rest of The Council sat in their seas, staring at the shapes taking form on the floor. The dancing lights began to still onto the floor, forming buildings and streets, until a perfect map of the city took shape.

The Court began to chant, and a single spot of light began dancing across the city. It spiraled inwards, and then outwards, and then inwards again. Every inch of the map was covered a dozen times over, but it never stilled.

The map faded and the Court floated to the ground. He tried to get to his feet but immediately dropped to his knees. Zero and Lux went down to help him up, but he waved them away.

“He’s not in the city, not this version.” He looked to Janus. “I can’t track him outside of it without a focus.”

“He’s been leaving trails everywhere,” Janus said. “But he’s always long gone before anyone can get to him. We’ve had people scouring everywhere he’s been, but there’s never any trace. It’s like he doesn’t exist. We need another option.”

Meister continued to stare at the empty floor. It was days like today that he hated being in charge. Most of the time, it meant that he just had to sit there and tally votes, but this wasn’t the time for democracy. They needed a goal, and it was his job to decide what it was.

He looked around the room. “Slipstream, do you know anyone who’s succeeded in tracking Sliders?”

Slipstream shook his head. “Everyone’s worked on it on and off for years. Rift radiation fades in a few feet from their gates. We can detect it if we get close enough, but unless we have drones patrolling along every street, we’re never going to find him before he’s gone.”

Meister bit back a sigh. “What’s the worst case scenario? He hasn’t done anything malicious so far.”

He already knew the answer, but sometimes people needed to hear it out loud.

“If the radiation continues to permeate the city, it’ll weaken the borders between universes,” Janus said. “It’ll become easier and easier to slide through until anyone who has come in contact with a different frequency of radiation will start sliding uncontrollably. Some of us will be able to anchor ourselves, but half the sliders, and anyone they’ve been in close contact with, will start waking up in other worlds. If it goes on for longer than that…then I don’t know. It could start making everyone slip through.”

“How long do we have?”

“Months; days. I can’t say for sure. Whoever this slider is, his frequency is…off. It’s across a wider spectrum than I’ve seen from almost anyone. It could delay the process indefinitely, or it could reduce the time until convergence. We can’t risk letting him walk around.”

Meister nodded. “Does anyone have a plan?”

“I’m glad you asked.”

Everyone turned towards the door in time to see it open with a loud crash.

Will walked in with Red Racer and Miss Mirror following close behind him.

“Will,” Meister said. “I do hope you have a good reason for interrupting us. We don’t appreciate civilians interrupting our meetings, even if they’re towing two heroes behind them. One of whom we don’t even know.”

“He’s my brother,” Miss Mirror said. She stared Meister in the eye. “He needs to be here.”

Will smiled. “I wasn’t interrupting anything. You’ve spent the last three hours trying to track down someone who you’ll never find. You’ve been going about it the entirely wrong way.”

“Just tell us your plan,” Sigurd said. “I really don’t want to listen to any more politics today.”

Will’s smile faded slightly, but he kept it on his face. “Okay. I suppose we should start with this. The slider is one of mine. In fact, about half of you have met or seen him at least once. The problem is, none of us can remember him.”

Meister raised an eyebrow.

“None of our minds were altered,” Will continued. “According to Red here, his powers prevent us from actively recalling him, or seeing him, or recognizing his existence in any way.”

“Why is he leaving these trails then?” Janus asked “Why hasn’t he turned his power off?”

“I don’t think he can. I think something scared him, and he’s stuck. He’d probably been wandering around town for weeks before the radiation built up and anyone noticed him. If he can’t turn his powers off, then he needs to know that someone still remembers him, before he gives up completely.”

“The issues you were having,” Lux said. “He was the absence.”

Will nodded. “Exactly. I never could have figured it out without Red Racer’s help, because it’s impossible for most people to remember him. The only reason Red can is because he’s a runner.”

Adamant stared at Red Racer, then looked between the other members of the Council. “Are we going to talk about-“

“No.” Will, Mirror, and Zero said at the same time.

“Talk about what?” Red Racer asked. The others ignored him.

“How does this help us find him?” Janus asked.

“You’re focusing too much on where he’s been,” Will said. “Red here is probably the only person alive who can remember him. We can help you figure out where he’s going to be.”

Will nodded at Red Racer.

Red stepped forward. His eyes kept darting between the Council members. “Unimportant-ant became a hero to stop Asclepios-os. He spent most of the last year taking out his resources,a nd he’s the one who warned us about the gas bombs-ombs.

“I think we can find him if we stake out a few of his warehouses-ouses.”

“We’d need a slider at each one,” Will said. “And someone he knows with them.”

“You have a suggestion?” Meister said.

“I know just the people.”

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Chapter 72: Dreaming

The walls glowed with an eerie light. The bars too. Magic, he assumed; it kept him from breaking out. Not that breaking out would have done him any good. The world was his prison. Everyone out there knew his face; they knew that if he ever made it home they would vanish from existence like a dream.

They didn’t need to bother. He’d died the same day she did. The last thing he did before falling through the cracks was destroy their apartment and throw his cousin out a window. He didn’t have a home to return to.

He paced from one wall to the next, gently tapping his fingers along the bars of his cell. They didn’t treat him poorly, but the boredom was going to kill him. They were afraid that if they gave him too much to work with he’d break out. He got a new book every couple of days. No TV. No Radio.

Most of the time, he was alone with his thoughts. He tried to lose himself in happy memories. He remembered her smile, her voice, her lips. But it always led him to the same place. The sight of her, overwhelmed by her own power, sinking into a level of depression that took years in a matter of moments. He remembered not being able to reach her, to hold her back. He watched her pick up the shard of glass. And then he’d done the worst thing he could.

He turned away.

It had been his fault. She shouldn’t have been there at all. She definitely shouldn’t have been the one to try and take down Eclipse. It hadn’t worked any of the dozens of times they’d killed him before. They didn’t have any reason to believe that dying by his own hand would make it stick.

But it had been a chance. And Kalliope had wanted to try; she wanted to take a chance to end the monster’s life once and for all.

It was meal time. A guard was walking down the hall. As always, his other accompanied him. It was the easiest way to keep his powers in check.

Rumor watched himself through the bars. Staring into his mask in a way he had never experience until these last few months.

Neither of him said a word. The guard kept glancing between the two, as if any hint of conversation would lead to his doom.

The other Rumor scoffed. Despite the mask in the way, Rumor caught the smirk on the face that wasn’t his.

“New book.” He handed it through the bars and Rumor passed the old one back.

The guard slid the tray through the door and quickly backed away.

The other him turned to walk away and he stared at his back.

“It won’t work forever you know.”

The other him paused.

“It’s a stop-gap. Sooner or later this whole place will collapse and the only thing that will change is you’ll take me with you.”

The other him turned back slightly. “It gives us time. If you want to live, the best option is to give us as much as you can.”

Rumor looked himself in the eye. The other him couldn’t look for long. Whatever spark they’d once shared, whatever drove them to become who they were, it was gone now. He hated that look, that defeated void, coming from his own face.

Rumor couldn’t have looked for long either. This him had grown more ruthless without her. He was frozen in a moment of anger that he may never move on from. Even without the news, he heard the guards gossiping, just out of sight. He hadn’t started killing, but he was close. They’d found at least a few villains with every bone in their body shattered. They couldn’t wake up for days without fainting from the pain.

They both saw each other as the worst they could ever become. They hated each other almost as much as they hated themselves.

“You’re wrong about that,” Rumor said as he returned to his bunk. “If I wanted to live, I’d already be gone.”

The other him didn’t answer as he led the guard out of the room.

Rumor glanced down at the book. He’d read it already, but it was one he enjoyed. At least he could trust himself to pick out good books.

He ate his meal in silence and slid the tray back to the door when he was done.

Then he sat down and opened the book.

He tried to focus on the words, to string a sentence together. But before he knew it, he’d been staring blankly at the first page for minutes on end without reading a single line.

.His mind was wandering again. It led to the same place as always. Even months later, it was the only thing he could thing about.

It wasn’t her death, or her song of depression, or her lips, or her voice, or her smile. Those were all things he used to distract himself from the truth.

It was the last thing she’d said; before she started to sing. It was when she asked him to help her.

And he had

Eclipse didn’t kill Kalliope.

Rumor did.

&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&

Will’s eyes shot open, but his head remained firmly planted on the pillow.

It was the fourth time he’d had that dream in as many nights. Before that, it had been a year and a half since he’d had it.

Ever since he was in Mach’s head, ever since he’d seen himself in the state he’d been in for months after escaping that place, the cell hadn’t left his mind.

He couldn’t talk about them. Most people would have shrugged it off as a nightmare, but people like his friends tended to be a bit…paranoid about dreams. The last thing he needed right now was The Court trying to interpret it as a sign of modern events or Maestro psychoanalyzing him about how it was a reaction to similar emotions, or Lux telling his mother.

It was just a bad dream.

It didn’t have to mean anything.

A knock on the door.

His clock said half past one, but he didn’t care. Right now he needed the distraction.

When he opened it, there was a note stuck to the other side.

It was from Zero. Apparently, someone needed to talk to him, fast. She didn’t give a name. It was odd, but not uncommon.

Will looked back at his bed. He wasn’t going to get anymore sleep tonight anyway.

Will threw on a long jacket over his t-shirt and sweat pants. And walked out the door.

The meeting place was close luckily.

Will sat down on a park bench, haloed by a lamppost mostly covered by a tree.

Miss Mirror slowly floated down to him, and Red Racer was there just as she landed.

Red Racer’s explanation was long and full of segues, but the message got through.

Will grabbed his phone and started making calls.

He wasn’t going to lose another one.

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